By Bianca Schulze, The Children’s Book Review
Published: April 25, 2013
Carole P. Roman is the award-winning author of the Captain No Beard series. She is a former social studies teacher turned businesswoman whom runs a business with her husband that employs close to five hundred people. Her most favorite occupation has always been sitting in that big, cozy armchair next to a bed, reading a great story to someone she loves. Being with her grandchildren has awoken her spirit of the absurd as she goes on daily adventures with them to outer space, fashion shows under the sea, and of course, always back in time for dinner. Roman has two wonderful sons and hit the jackpot in the daughter-in-law department. Roman talks to us about her latest children’s book series that aims to introduce kids to cultures around the world.
Bianca Schulze: If You Were Me and Lived in …Mexico: A Child’s Introduction to Cultures Around the World is book one in your new educational and enlightening series which introduces young children to cultures around the world by sharing details on places, foods, sports, language and more. What inspired you to begin this series? Was it your former job as a social studies teacher?
Carole P. Roman: I became a social studies teacher thirty six years ago because I love this subject. I couldn’t wait to teach and then couldn’t get a job, so I left the field. My hobby then became reading or watching anything about history or cultures around the world. I have to admit that I am that annoying traveler who always knows some sort of trivia about wherever we are going We went to Las Vegas when my grandson just turned three. Walking down the strip, I pointed out the Eiffel Tower and we discussed that it was in Paris. He then observed the pyramid and when we got to our room, we looked up Egypt on a map. I got the idea for the book based on that afternoon and the way he soaked up the stories I told him about the other countries.
BS: Why did you decide to write and publish the “Mexico” book first?
CPR: I have never been to Mexico, but know so many people from there. It’s such a vibrant and colorful country. It is an important neighbor and I felt it was a good and exciting start to observe if our cultures had any similarities.
BS: The facts about Mexico are told from a child’s point of view. The narrator sounds like one person, however, the illustrations show two guides—a boy and a girl. Was it deliberate to have one voice, leaving it up to the readers to decide as to whether the boy or the girl is the narrator? It seems like a smart choice and I’m wondering if it was intentional or just a synergy that happened when the illustrator made the artwork for your text.
CPR: That was exactly my goal. When I started this book, I wanted to feel it could be either gender. I wasn’t giving the kids any chance not to be motivated to read it! I struggled with the sports page and didn’t want anyone to feel that only girls play with dolls and boys do sports. In later books, we have many girls also doing other activities.
BS: Your series is a great choice for parents and caregivers that are looking for ways to raise children who appreciate diversity. France, South Korea, Norway, Turkey, and Kenya are the next 5 countries you are featuring. Will each book follow a similar format? Can you share with TCBR’s readers as to what they can expect?
CPR: The books follow the same format, so if they choose to read a few, they can then compare what things are different in each country. I chose things I think children would be interested in. There is a wealth of subjects to discuss from each area. Do the names in Mexico sound similar to some of your friends names? Isn’t it interesting that Mommy and Daddy are so alike in almost every culture? I mention currency because one of my favorite lessons was to bring in coins and paper currency and ask the children to tell me what they could about the land where it came from: is it agricultural, industrial, modern, a democracy or monarchy, heavy, light, rich or poor? A landmark helps with a visual of the country, and everyone is interested in what the food is like. This could lead to making postcards in a classroom, international food days or even pen pals.
BS: How many countries do you think your series will cover?
CPR: If people buy them, I will keep going. I would like to do every country. I have to tell you that I am learning a lot as well. I love to learn about the holidays that are important to each country. I then would like to follow with “If You were Me and lived in…the Middle Ages, Ancient Rome, and so on…
BS: In the past 12 months, you’ve worked on 14 books. Wow! What does your typical working day look like? I’m sure there are many writers that would love to know how you find balance in your day to accomplish your writing goals.
CPR: I go to work everyday at 7 AM where I meet my sons and start our day. We employ close to five hundred people. It’s a family business that provides transportation for travelers all over the world. I have to do my day job first. I then meet with staff for about an hour, go over the work of the day and then I can begin to answer emails, return phone calls,or do research for the books. Oddly enough, most of the ideas come just before I wake in the morning. You know, that gray area of almost awake. I usually tell my kids about the idea, then write a first draft really quick. Very often, I will go and read the books to staff, but I always make sure we have cookies and milk if I do. I am working on several adult fiction works as well. Those I work on at night, after eight or on the weekends.
BS: All of your children’s books have been independently published through CreateSpace. Can you tell us a little bit about the process of self-publishing? Who does your editing? Who does the illustrations? How do you decide that your work is completely ready for the press?
CPR: Createspace is a wonderful vehicle that has provided a platform for people to live their dreams! I write the first draft, my son sends it in for me. I am still insecure with the downloading. I pay for an editor to clean it up, which they do. They then send it back with advice as well as corrections. I have used the same illustrator for each of the series to keep it uncomplicated. They have examples on the website, and you pick the artist you think will work with your ideas. I have never spoken to any of the artists. I fill out a questionnaire describing what I think the illustrations should look like and include. They send ink drawings, which I approve, then it’s done again in color and the last job, and oddly enough the hardest, is putting the text on to the appropriate picture. They have been available to answer questions or hold my hand when we have made mistakes. You are sent a proof and then you publish. The great thing about Createspace, if a mistake goes unnoticed, you can pull it back and correct it.
BS: Based on your recent awards and accolades, you’re obviously doing the right thing. Your first book, Captain No Beard: An Imaginary Tale of a Pirate’s Life has been named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best of 2012 and received the star of remarkable merit. It also received a Pinnacle Award. In a flooded self-published market, how does it feel to receive such positive recognition?
CPR: I was blown away! Every time I open a review, I have a minute where fear ices up my insides. What if it’s terrible and I shouldn’t be doing this? When I started in my business almost forty years ago, I was a very young mother with no business background. I traveled all over the country to go to corporate meetings and I remember feeling like an imposter, you know, like I was dressed in my Mom’s clothes and pretending at being a businesswoman. I have minutes of feeling that insecurity. I am a grandmother, my children are grown and yet here I am trying to write for an audience I only visit with. I am not in the trenches anymore. I read a review yesterday and the person said that I write as if I am playing with the children and we are making it up as we play. Yes! Captain No Beard is based on a game I play with my grandchildren, Alexander and Hallie. It stems from games I played with my children and my own siblings.
BS: Should we expect to see more Captain No Beard books from you?
CPR: “Strangers on the High Seas” is the crews next voyage. I will be introducing Captain No Beard’s new baby sister, Cayla. She adds something very interesting to the crew and they learn not to judge someone because they are small. Everybody has something important to bring to the mix. The following Captain No Beard is the “Treasure of Snake Island”. I was inspired by the most beautiful sunrise and the story just kind of flowed from that.
BS: What would you say are the three most important things you have taken away from your writing and publishing experience, thus far?
CPR: The world is filled with kind people who share their knowledge freely. I have met the most delightful people on the internet who have shown this newbie patience and warmth. I love reading to my audience. I was at a school last month and reading when I looked up and saw rapt faces enjoying the adventure. Maybe another future filmmaker or writer was born that day. Books have been my best friends my whole life. It’s awe inspiring to think that perhaps somewhere my captain is sparking someone’s imagination, or even better giving them confidence or comfort. Lastly, being 58 has been so hard. You become invisible sometimes as you grow older. We live in a youth obsessed culture. Writing has made me feel relevant. I don’t want to retire. I don’t want to ever sit still!
BS: As a parting note, is there anything you would like to share with your readers?
CPR: Thank you! Thank you for the encouragement, vote of confidence and support. Without readers, writers are nothing.
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